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Southern Miss baseball picked to win Conference USA, Sandlin & Wallner honored

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Press Release from Southern Miss Athletics

Conference USA announced Wednesday its 2018 preseason baseball awards, as chosen by the league’s 12 head coaches, and three Southern Miss players earned spots on the preseason all-league team as the Golden Eagles were also picked to finish first in the league.

Right-handed pitcher Nick Sandlin and outfielders Mason Irby and Matt Wallner were named to the preseason all-league team while the Golden Eagles were chosen to win the league in the C-USA preseason poll after capturing the C-USA regular-season title last season and collecting the tournament championship in 2016.

Sandlin, the junior out of Evans, Ga., was also named the preseason Pitcher of the Year. Sandlin posted a 10-2 record with eight saves and a 2.38 earned run average for the Golden Eagles last season.  Sandlin fanned 80 and walked just 29 in 56 2/3 innings of work, as he appeared in 29 games.  He and former teammate Kirk McCarty shared the top spot in C-USA for wins in 2017 and his 20 career saves places him sixth and 10 behind the all-time record holder at the school. 

Additionally, Sandlin was named to the C-USA All-Academic Team for his 4.0 GPA while majoring in construction engineering technology, garnered a third-team CoSIDA Academic All-American nod and collected three All-America accolades last summer, including one first team honor.

Sophomore outfielder/pitcher, Wallner, was chosen as the preseason Player of the Year along with preseason all-league team honors. Wallner registered a .336 batting average during his initial season with the Golden Eagles in 2017, while putting together Southern Miss freshman records for home runs (19) and runs batted in (63). His home run total was the most by any freshman in the country while his RBI total ranked second. Wallner also added 14 doubles, two triples and four stolen bases. 

His offensive numbers included a .463 on base percentage along with a .655 slugging percentage for a Golden Eagle squad that won a school-record 50 games in 2017 that included a C-USA regular season championship and the school hosting just its second-ever NCAA Regional.

Wallner garnered the Freshman National Hitter of the Year accolade by the National Collegiate Baseball Association (NCBWA) and National Freshman of the Year award by Baseball America. In addition, he was a consensus Freshman All-American, the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and was listed first or second team on each of the various All-American teams.

Joining Sandlin and Wallner on the preseason All-Conference team is senior outfielder Irby, the third Southern Miss player to be named to the team, tying the Golden Eagles with Rice and Florida Atlantic for the most selections on the squad. Irby was named to the second team All-C-USA team last season and batted .338 and was second on the team in hits (89), doubles (20) and runs scored (62), while driving in 40 runs.

The Golden Eagles received 11 of the 12 first place votes in the preseason poll with Rice earning the other. Rice, Florida Atlantic, ODU and FIU close out the top 5 spots while Charlotte, LA Tech, UTSA, Middle Tennessee, Marshall, UAB and WKU close out the standings.

The 2018 C-USA baseball season begins Friday, February 16, with Southern Miss hosting Mississippi State in a three-game series as part of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Classic. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at Pete Taylor Park.

2018 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS
(as selected by C-USA’s head coaches)

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1.            Southern Miss (11)                
2.            Rice (1)
3.            Florida Atlantic
4.            Old Dominion
5.            FIU
6.            Charlotte
7.            Louisiana Tech 
8.            UTSA
9.            Middle Tennessee
10.          Marshall
11.          UAB
12.          WKU
         (first place votes in parentheses)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Matt Wallner, Southern Miss (Sophomore, OF/P) 

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Nick Sandlin, Southern Miss (Junior, RHP)

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
P                 Matt Canterino                     So.                  Rice
P                 Nick MacDonald                   So.                  FIU
P                 Jake Miednik                         Sr.                   Florida Atlantic
RP               Nick Sandlin                           Jr.                   Southern Miss
C                 Dominic DiCaprio                  Jr.                   Rice
IF                Bryan Arias                             Jr.                   UTSA
IF                Tyler Frank                              Jr.                   Florida Atlantic
IF                Ford Proctor                           Jr.                   Rice
IF                Vinny Pasquantino              So.                  Old Dominion
OF              Kyle Battle                              So.                  Old Dominion
OF              Mason Irby                             Sr.                   Southern Miss
OF              David Miranda                       Sr.                   Florida Atlantic
OF              Matt Wallner                        So.                  Southern Miss
DH/UT      Aaron Aucker                        Sr.                   Middle Tennessee

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